EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - Morehead State escaped with a 73-67 Ohio Valley Conference victory over SIUE women's basketball in front of 1,776 energized fans on Education Day at the Vadalabene Center.
"You can't turn the ball over that much and turnovers are something that has been crippling us in our last three games," Buscher said. "Our team plays so hard, but those 22 turnovers were way too many and they put a lot of pressure on us."
SIUE, falling to 9-11 and 4-5 in the OVC, applied the pressure early, yet Morehead State, extending its winning streak to six games, improved to 16-6 overall and 7-2 in the OVC.
"They (Eagles) are a very athletic team," Buscher said, "and they did what they needed to do. Obviously, we didn't finish the job today. We lost our confidence and aggressiveness and then turned the ball over too much."
Morehead State scored 27 points off SIUE's turnovers and erased a double-digit deficit in the second half. SIUE led 44-28 with 6:27 remaining in the third quarter, but Morehead State mounted a comeback. The Eagles first went on an 8-0 run to cut into the Cougars' lead. Later in the quarter and continuing early in the fourth, Morehead State went on a 13-0 spree to turn a six-point deficit into a 61-54 advantage with 6:10 remaining.
"We were pretty confident at halftime," said SIUE's Allie Troeckler, the Cougars' scoring leader with 14 points. "But we weren't as focused as we need to be in the second half."
The first half belonged to the Cougars, and they gave young fans from six area schools plenty to cheer about on the Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery-sponsored event. SIUE led 35-26 against a Morehead State team averaging 81.5 points per game.
"I thought we did a great job defensively the first half," Buscher said. "We should be able to sustain that defensive intensity for 40 minutes, but we didn't do that."
Troeckler said the large group of youthful spectators inspired the Cougars.
"The crowd was great and what a blessing for us to have them here," she said.
SIUE's Jay'Nee Alston contributed 12 points to the cause and teammate Alex Akuen scored a career-best 11 points and added five rebounds. Alston led the way with six rebounds.
Nakiah Bell pitched in with five of SIUE's 22 assists.
Miranda Crockett's 24 points and eight rebounds were best for Morehead State, which made four free throws in the final 29.4 seconds to ensure its victory. SIUE closed to within 69-66 with 32.5 seconds to go but couldn't get any closer.
The Cougars made 23 of 52 shots, including 5 of 14 from three-point range. They converted 16 of 25 free throws. The Eagles made 26 of 67 shots, 3 of 17 from beyond the arc and 18 of 25 fouls hots.
SIUE, halfway through its conference schedule, remains at home Saturday against OVC foe Eastern Kentucky. It's a 2 p.m start on Community Day. Then the Cougars travel to Austin Peay (Feb. 7) and Murray State (Feb. 9) before entertaining Eastern Illinois (7:30 p.m. on Feb. 14) and UT Martin (4:30 p.m.) Feb. 16.